Five bodies spotted in search for climbers missing in Himalayas

Indian air force pilots have spotted five bodies in the Himalayas while searching for eight mountain climbers who have been missing for a week.

The bodies are at an altitude of 5,000 metres.

Contact was lost with the team after an avalanche and the climbers did not return to base camp on May 31 as expected.

District Magistrate Dr Vijay Kumar Jogdande said the bodies were found on Monday before a rescue operation in the northern state of Uttarakhand was suspended because of heavy snowfall and high winds.

Martin Moran, who is originally from Tyneside, was leading the party of eight who were attempting to reach the top of an unclimbed peak in a remote area.

Martin Moran, who founded Moran Mountain in Lochcarron, in the Highlands of Scotland in the mid-1980s, led the expedition. Credit: Facebook

Dr Jogdande said an operation to find the other three mountaineers will resume on Tuesday.

He said officials are consulting with the Indian army on how to retrieve the bodies.

The eight-member expedition set out to scale a 6,477-metre peak on Nanda Devi and had last been in touch with base camp on May 26.

Dr Jogdande says four British climbers rescued from base camp on Sunday received first aid at a hospital and were released.

The third day of the search on Monday was focused in the northern state of Uttarakhand after the rescued team members detailed the missing climbers’ plans.

The rescued climbers include Mark Thomas, 44, along with Zachary Quain, 32, Kate Armstone, 39, and Ian Wade, 45.

A rescue operation is on. Credit: Moran Mountain Facebook

Mr Moran’s family have said it was “not entirely clear” what had happened to the group – which included another three British climbers – but said there was “clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain”.

As well as the four Brits, there were two Americans, an Australian and an Indian in the missing group.

Mr Moran has been a mountain guide since 1985 and set up his company, Moran Mountain, which is based in Strathcarron in the Highlands.

His wife Joy and the couple’s grown-up children Hazel and Alex also work for the family business.

In a statement, the Moran family said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic events unfolding in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalayas.

“As a family, we share the same emotions that all next of kin are experiencing in not knowing the whereabouts or well-being of those closest to us.”

Academic Richard Payne, from the University of York, is believed to be among the group of missing climbers.

The university said it was “extremely concerned for his safety”, adding: “Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”

The Moran family said the climbing group “had set out to attempt an unclimbed, unnamed summit, Peak 6477m, and the last contact intimated that all was well”.

The Indian air force has joined the search for eight climbers missing in the Himalayas. Credit: PA

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are in contact with the Indian authorities following reports that a number of British nationals are missing in the Indian Himalayas.

“We will do all we can to assist any British people who need our help.”

The eight climbers were attempting to scale Nanda Devi in the Himalayas but failed to return to base camp on Sunday. Credit: ITV News

Climber Nigel Vardy, who has known Mr Moran for 20 years, described him as "an absolute professional and genuinely a really, really nice guy".

During his 30-year mountaineering career, Mr Vardy once suffered frostbite on a climb in Alaska and Mr Moran helped him rebuild his confidence.

He said: "Martin is a fantastic guy but if the weather and the conditions are not with you, then no matter how skilled you are the mountain is going to have its way."

Mr Vardy stated Mr Moran "knows the area, he knows the mountains and knows what he is doing".

Mr Vardy said he is hoping for everyone's safe return but concerns over safety deepen the longer that anyone is missing.